Graphic of a computer on a desk, with the zoom logo, a graduation cap propped on the computer.
Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

The Unfortunate Impacts of Online Learning

As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, students all around the world have adapted to a new form of learning whether it be on Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. This mode of online learning has united students of all ages from elementary students all the way to graduate students. Some would call this pandemic a cultural reset, in all facets of the word: art, education, family, health care, politics. While technology has become our main form of existence and our new normal in 2020, it may also be our downfall. 

A Harvard study done before the pandemic concluded that grades in online classes are, on average, lower than in-person courses. Additionally, Harvard researchers found that students who take fully online classes are less likely to stay enrolled at their universities. Through an intersectional lens, online learning poses a huge threat to the education of those living in poverty. Without access to tablets, laptops, or computers, online learning could lead to an increased number of students dropping out. Additionally, online learning poses a developmental barrier for children who are in their peak developmental years. Children rely heavily on observation and imitation for learning social cues and skills. Not only that, but these developmental years are when children learn their basic educational skills such as reading, the alphabet, basic math, and so much more.

Further, some researchers have linked copious amounts of screen time to both obesity and depression. The dangers of screen time have long been discussed in popular media but now, more than ever, studies are exploring the true consequences of this mode of learning. In addition to the aforementioned consequences, excessive use of screens can lead to eye strain which increases the risk of macular degeneration and loss of vision. To combat this, many people have begun purchasing blue light glasses which are said to filter out the damaging light that our screens emit. While it is not a permanent solution, blue light glasses may help some people find peace of mind.

In addition to online learning, many people have found themselves using other forms of technology at increased levels. Sophie Carter, MCAS ‘22 said, “I take a break from my online classes with my little screen [cell phone] and my big screen [TV].” Normally, after a stressful day of in-person classes, students would retreat to their dorm and relax by scrolling through TikTok or watching a movie. This was never seen as a huge problem, however, with classes being online, that means that virtually every mode of existence relies on screen time. 

Aside from the threat that online learning poses to eye health, stamina and posture have been heavily impacted as well. Many viral memes have the caption “Why does my back hurt?” and then depict a photograph of a shrimp sitting at a desk. Posture is difficult to maintain as it is, but when students spend all day hunched over computers at desks, it can cause lasting damage to their neck, back, and shoulder areas. The nature of a fully online education is not conducive to the health of muscles or bones. In addition, online learning can cause serious fatigue. Many students have reported that they used to be on campus running around all day and still had energy, and now they need a nap after one Zoom class. This phenomenon has been dubbed “Zoom fatigue.” The increased presence of a sedentary lifestyle during COVID-19 can lead to a higher risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

A consequence that likely hits home for many Boston College students is the lack of social interaction and its impact on mental health. Traditional BC events such as gamedays, Marathon Monday, and Thursday nights out at the bars no longer exist. Many students feel as though they are being robbed of their college years. Additionally, the guest policy prevents groups of friends from hanging out, which can lead to the loss of friendships and even romantic relationships. While there are many physical consequences that may appear later in life, students around the globe are feeling the immediate mental impacts of the pandemic.

While the facts previously stated may be scary, there is hope on the horizon as vaccines are rolled out across the country. Take care of oneself and others. As always, be kind, wash your hands, and wear a mask. One semester of COVID learning down, hopefully only one more to go!

My entire personality is being from Buffalo, NY. I like to think I'm a Buffalo Bills major but here at BC I’m studying Applied Psychology and Human Development with a minor in Marketing. WHEW that’s a mouthful. Iced Tea enthusiast. go bills 🙂